Charlie Chaplin in Switzerland !

It all started with my visit to Vevey, a pretty little town on Lake Geneva where Charlie Chaplin spent last 25 years of his life. It was the December chill. I had come here to celebrate Charlie Chaplin in Switzerland.

charlie chaplin statue in vevey switzerland ©lemonicks.com
Bronze statue of Charlie Chaplin in Vevey, Switzerland

Vevey wears the character of Charlie Chaplin

On the first glance itself, the town looked like it was wearing the personality of the evergreen legend.
To begin with, the hotel I was staying in, was named after the legend’s movie ‘Modern Times’. It acknowledged the Little Tramp with Chaplin portraits in the bar, corridors and guestrooms. There were TV screens in the lounge area showing clips from his films.
Outside, a statue of him sat on a bench while a huge cutout of him adorned the outer wall.

charlie chaplin in switzerland @lemonicks.com
Corridor of Modern Times Hotel

Läderach Chocolate Shop

chocolate Läderach Chocolate Shop @lemonicks.com
Premium chocolate from Läderach Chocolate Shop

Several places in Vevey pay homage to Charlie Chaplin, particularly the Läderach chocolate shop. Around two decades ago, the chief chocolatier, Blaise Poyet, had approached the Chaplin family about making a confection in his honor. Hence came the Little Tramp’s oversized shoes in chocolate.
Mr Poyet was careful enough to inculcate three characteristics of Charlie in these chocolates.
First, Charlie was strong, So Poyet used dark chocolate. Second, he was very romantic, and for that caramel was used. And third, Charlie was original, so he used pine nuts, which is unusual.
In the town there were several high rise buildings with Charlie Chaplin’s murals. A cafe down the street bore his French pet name, Le Charlot, and a women’s shop had a window decorated with a bowler hat, cane, red rose.

Chaplin’s statue in Vevey

Charlie Chaplin, one of the most prominent stars of the early days of Hollywood, lived an interesting life both in his reel & real lives. Recognized as an icon of the silent film era, he is often associated with his popular character, the Little Tramp … the man with the toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, funny walk and expressions.

I walked on the same promenade along the lake Genève, where Chaplin used to go for evening strolls with his wife Oona. And I wondered how it would feel to be Charlie Chaplin in Switzerland. Later in life, Oona pushed the wheelchair-bound Chaplin along the path. Now, a bronze statue of the tiny Little Tramp gazes over the lake, posing for tourist photos.

Charlie Chaplin’s House

After being barred from the United States over suspicions that he had communist sympathies, Charlie Chaplin chose Switzerland as his retirement home. He decided to settle in Vevey, along with his wife and children. Four of them were born in Switzerland. The family lived in Manoir du Ban, a 37-acre grounds with a mansion of the neoclassical style of 1840 in the small Swiss Riviera town about 55 miles northeast of Geneva. The snow-capped Alps of France and Switzerland that rose up beyond the far shore of the lake provided the mountainous backdrop. Perhaps he wanted a scenic peaceful surrounding. The house is a collection of his personal effects, rare family photographs, book collections and loads of video clippings.

I have seen his movies umpteen number of times but a home movie in which 70+ years old white-haired Chaplin plays with his children on the front lawn of his mansion showing his other side moved me. He remained a child among his own children. He lived here until his death in 1977.

Chaplin’s childhood, in London, was one of poverty and hardship. His father was absent and his mother Hannah had to fend herself to make the two ends meet. He was sent to a workhouse before the age of nine. When he was 14, his mother was sent to a mental asylum. Thus Chaplin began performing at an early age and became somewhat known to public. His work took him to America at the age of 19. He soon developed the Tramp persona and formed a large fan base. Chaplin loved to direct his own films.

Chaplin was scandal-prone, involved in several controversies of tax evasion and affairs with young women. In one such case, he had to marry a woman who claimed to carry his child.
Chaplin was married four times and had a total of 11 children. In contrast to many of his boisterous characters, Chaplin was a quiet man who kept to himself. He died at age 88 of natural causes on December 25, 1977 at his home in Vevey, Switzerland.

His living room
Personal photographs adorning the walls.
Charlie Chaplin in wax.

The house is now restored into a museum & was inaugurated on 16th April 2016 (his birthday). It is a part of the new complex known as Chaplin’s World. The complex includes the Manoir showcasing his personal life, a cinema museum or studio dedicated to his professional achievements, and a restaurant.

He wanted people to remember him. That’s why he did the films and he did it in such a perfectionist way,” Chaplin’s fifth son Eugene Chaplin told me during the media dinner that evening.
I, then, asked him, which of his father’s movies he would recommend to others. He was thoughtfully silent for a few moments.
Smilingly he said, “You have asked a very thought provoking and simple question. All of his movies are my favourites and I have seen them many times. But I would say, go for my father’s silent movies which he enjoyed making most. He never wanted to make talking movies as they would restrict his audience.
Although the children grew up speaking both French and English, Charlie himself stayed away from French and remained loyal to English.
Later, when I was about to leave, Eugene saw me again and called his photographer to click our pictures. My day was made. 😀

Nisha with Eugene Chaplin, son of Charlie Chaplin vevey @lemonicks.com
Yours Truly with Eugene Chaplin, son of Charlie Chaplin

The next day while taking the museum tour the guide told me, Chaplin had three fears in his life.

He would become mentally ill just like his mother.
He would lose all his money and become a poor again.
People would forget him.

Ice Sculpture at Jungfrau

I left for Interlaken from where we proceeded towards Jungfrau next morning. Coming to Jungfrau was for a reason. To participate and celebrate Charlie Chaplin in the form of an ice sculpture.

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charlie chaplin ice sculpture jungfrau switzerland ©lemonicks.com
Charlie Chaplin’s son Eugene with the sculpture
charlie chaplin ice sculpture jungfrau switzerland ©lemonicks.com
Based on the movie ‘The Kid’, Charlie Chaplin’s ice sculpture at Ice Palace, Jungfrau.

Jungfrau Railways, in collaboration with the Chaplin’s World museum, unveiled an ice statue of Chaplin in the Ice Palace on the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe, in his memory. The unveiling was part of a series of commemorations that marked the 40th death anniversary of the movie legend. The British sculptor John Doubleday, who chiefly uses bronze for his sculptures, worked meticulously on it for eight months. All these days, his work remained hidden behind a wall of ice at an altitude of 11,332 feet.

He along with Charlie Chaplin’s son Eugene unveiled the ice statue. The statue would further delight visitors to Jungfraujoch all year round. When I asked him about the difficulties faced in making this sculpture, he whispered in my ears, “I don’t think I’d make many ice sculptures. It’s way too cold to work on!” 🙂

On way to Jungfrau by train, I met with school children between ages 10 to 12. They were dressed as the comedian, complete with bowler hat, suit, moustaches, cane and his bow-legged gait. They had won some contests and were going to be part of this event. It was a great fun to interact with them in my broken French. 🙂

Kids as charlie chaplin jungfrau switzerland ©lemonicks.com
Children as Charlie Chaplin posing for me at Jungfrau
Kids as charlie chaplin jungfrau switzerland ©lemonicks.com
A little close up.
charlie chaplin in switzerland @lemonicks.com
How could I be left behind!

Getting there:

Fly direct to Zurich from Mumbai by Swiss International Air Lines and connect to Vevey, Interlaken and Jungfrau by Swiss Rail.

Stay:

Modern Times Hotel on the highway in Vevey is convenient for motorists. It is dedicated to the Charlie Chaplin theme. In Interlaken, I stayed in Grand Hotel Victoria – Jungfrau.

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19 thoughts on “Charlie Chaplin in Switzerland !

  1. I never knew that Charlie Chaplin had a retirement home in Switzerland. That’s so interesting. And I love it how the chocolate maker uses Charlie Chaplin’s character to define how the chocolate should taste like, being dark and with caramel.

  2. Wow! What a cool place to visit! I didn’t know that there was a town where the life of Charlie Chaplin was embodied in so many places. That’s so interesting to know! 🙂 The bits and pieces of his life sounds pretty interesting.. It’s so great how you were able to meet his son over dinner. I’m pretty sure it was an incredible experience! 🙂

  3. Oona is such an unusual name. Charlie Chaplin made a name for himself like no one else – the world is not going to forget him soon. Ice sculpture looks fantastic – how long would this last – any idea?

    1. Unusual name but sweet. 🙂

      Charlie Chaplin is immortal, unforgettable.

      In that cold, I think they survive for a few days, then need retouch again.

  4. I have to admit, I didn’t know Charlie lived out his life in Switzerland. And its so crazy you met his son as well! This was a very interesting read and loved the photos. 🙂

  5. That’s interesting to learn Chaplin was involved in so many scandals, such as affairs and tax invasion. I had never heard of that before, but it makes sense since you said he was a rather quiet person. Learning the history of someone makes visiting places like this much more exciting.
    I love how much there is to see on Chaplin here! I’d have to stop at the Läderach Chocolate Shop
    for sure.

  6. That is so cool! I had no idea that Charlie Chaplin retired in Switzerland and even in a little town of Vevey! What a cool find and you met his son Eugene! Awesome. I would love to tour his house and get lost in the culture that embraces the Little Tramp. I love his movies too!

  7. I had absolutely no idea that Charlie Chaplin lived in Switzeland despite having spent time on Lake Geneva. Thank you for this insight into his life which I also knew very little about! The ice sculpture looks pretty cool (pun intended)! 😀

  8. I was in Geneva a couple of years back but I missed going here. Vevey seems like a really nice little town with lot of sculptures and images of Charlie Chaplin everywhere. I’m sure it would’ve been a great experience, such a pity that I missed it!

  9. Wow, that must be a unique kind of experience! I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the character, but I did enjoy his movies. I must admit I had no idea he had a son and I’m glad you got the chance to meet him and take a photo together.

  10. had no idea Charlie Chaplin spent a quarter of a century in Switzerland. That’s one of the top countries on my itinerary this year, and I’ll look into visiting this place in Lake Geneva, which itself looks gorgeous. That’s so cool you got to meet his son. I’m guessing he resides there.

  11. So much of Charlie Chaplin in Switzerland! And all interesting stories too. So good to see pics of his son and he posing with you. I enjoyed his silent movies and agree his son’s opinion that his silent movies were the best.

  12. When I lived in Switzerland I used to visit Vevey often. It is a really pretty town. None of this was around then, Reading this post the chocolate shop seemed to have started the trend about 20 years ago. I remember being made to watch Charlie Chaplin movies as a child which I hated and I am still not a fan of slapstick.

    He was a legend and there is no doubt in my mind that he will not be forgotten. Thanks for a really interesting read.

  13. Wow, I have never wanted to eat someone’s shoes before lol. Did you get Charlie Chaplin overload while you were there? I can’t velieve they even have an ice sculpture. It’s haertbteaking that the communism scare left him an exile, but amazing that it spawned such an interesting place to visit.

  14. Did not know that Switzerland had such a huge dedication to Chaplin. The tour of his home is definitely interesting though I found the chocolate bit the most amusing. Flavors based on his personality shaded sounds so cool. Beautifully recounted Nisha. Enjoyed this piece

  15. Awwwen, his fears of being a forgotten memory has been put to rest seeing that the chocolate factory made a statue of this legend. There’s even a nice statue in the museum. Charlie must have been a homeboy. I’ll like to watch that film “The Kid.” It sounds interesting. It must have been a special moment for you too since you’re a fan.

  16. I had no idea Charlie Chaplin had such a presence in Switzerland. He was actually quite a handsome guy without the mustache and hat. I was also unaware he was barred from the U.S. Thanks for such an informative article.

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